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17 February, 2007

Broadband? We'll See...

Broadband is coming to the Brisbane suburbs after all. Telstra’s new G3 wireless network now serves my area. (Why can't they just lay a proper fibre-to-the-home network like a civilised country would?) In the past two weeks, I have been into three different Telstra shops to talk to their salespeople about it, and I have spoken three times on the phone to telemarketers. Each time I said to them, ‘I know what the service is, I’ve looked at your plans online, and I know what I want by way of a package. However, I have a couple of technical questions about how the service would work with the equipment I have at home. Do you have the technical background to talk to me about how the Telstra G3 modem will connect to a wireless local area network servicing a Mac and a Windows PC?’ Every single time, they said ‘Yes’ quite unequivocally and then went on to prove they had an almost total ignorance of computer networking.

God knows, I’m not exactly technically savvy myself, but I know when someone is talking rubbish: like the guy who confidently told me the Telstra modems can’t be used with a router and I’d have to buy a separate modem and a separate broadband service for each computer I wanted to use! Anyway, the sixth person I spoke to actually did seem to know something about it.

It’s true you can’t just plug a (fabulously expensive) Telstra modem into a router (Why the %$#% not? How stupid is that?) so I’ll have to set up one of our machines as a network server and then route the traffic from there. (Probably the Mac - it's always 50 times easier with a Mac.)Because Telstra’s 3G service costs twice what an equivalent ADSL (1) service would cost, we won’t be looking at generous download limits, and the speed (at between 500kbps and 1.5mbps, they say, ‘depending on the signal strength in your area’) is pathetic (but not so pathetic as the 16kbps to 24kbps I’m getting at the moment!) but I’m going for it anyway – if only so I can spare you all the agony of me whining on about not having broadband!

But, you know, I don’t hold out much hope for success. Putting a Mac and a PC together on a LAN has never been a simple matter – in fact, I’ve known IT experts reduced to tears just setting up a very ordinary, PC-only network at home. And those caveats about signal strength probably mean that we’ll be getting 100kbps speeds with endless drop-outs and spending hours on the phone to Telstra technical support people in India who haven’t got a clue what to do about it.

And it’s Telstra, of course, and they’re renowned for being useless, and their Big Pond ISP service is renowned for being flakey, and I had to talk to SIX of their untrained sales chimps before I found one that could answer a few simple questions!

Still, the deed is done. I ordered the modem last Thursday and I’m expecting it any time in the next few weeks (two days, the chimp said – but it’s been two days already). I’ll let you know how it all works out.

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